California has numerous laws in place to protect potential job candidates from hiring practices that discriminate against older workers. Many companies still discriminate against older workers, choosing to hire younger workers instead based purely on age. This happens more than you might think. In fact, Facebook had to settle a lawsuit with the Fair Employment and Housing Department as recently as 2013 for posting an employment ad specifying its desire for employees that graduated in 2007 or 2008. Even though the state has been vigilant in cracking down on age discrimination, companies are finding new ways to get away with doing so.
Many companies hide their age discrimination behind tricky and creative use of language. For example, some of the biggest companies out there, such as Yahoo and Apple, listed openings with the term “new grad” as a preference. However, limiting their hiring to new grads is in effect age discrimination. This being somewhat obvious, a new term has surfaced in many listed openings. This term is “digital native.”
If you do a search for “digital native” among current job listings, you’ll find dozens of results from a wide range of companies, from media giants to startups, both big and small. Some of the more recognizable companies to use the term include Zipcar, The CBS TV affiliate, The Gannet, and the advertising agency, Wunderman. Any age discrimination lawyer in L.A. will tell you that the use of the term “digital native” is definitely a method for discriminating hiring practices concerning age. How so? The term “digital native” was first used in an essay by Marc Prensky written back in 2001. The author defined the “digital native” as someone that was born in or during the beginning of the digital world, which means that they are native speakers of the digital language of the Internet and computers in general. Those that were born and raised before the digital world were referred to in his essay as “digital immigrants,” meaning that they had to adapt to the digital age since they were not raised in it.
While using the term “digital native” may be a term used by companies looking to hire younger employees, it’s not a new practice in the digital world. Employers have been actively seeking younger employees since the dotcom boom in the 1990’s, believing that younger, tech-savvy employees were necessary in order to survive and succeed in the digital economy. This has resulted in the number of age discrimination complaints skyrocketing since then. Consider this: in 1997, 15,785 claims were filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). In 2014, that number jumped to 20,588. The EEOC has stated that using phrases such as “recent college graduate,” “college student” or “young blood” in job listings all violate the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) of 1966. However, the term “digital native” does not – yet.
The use of the term “digital native” is very tricky because it doesn’t directly concern age. Companies that use the term suggest that the term correlates with digital experience and not with age – but because it refers to the digital age, which began during a certain time period, it indirectly does discriminate against older job seekers. Another problem is that age discrimination cases are more difficult to prove than any other form of discrimination.
You should have equal opportunities to obtain employment no matter what your age might be. If you feel like you have been discriminated against due to your age, seek an age discrimination lawyer in L.A. immediately. Contact us at Jackson & Associates today to learn more.